The Seattle neighborhood of Ballard is on the other side of the city from my home, but I find myself in the neighborhood at least once a week. It’s funky. It’s artistic. And it’s got a whole bunch of delicious restaurants and dining options.
Until relatively recently, Ballard was Seattle‘s take on Scandinavia. Attracted to the area by fishing opportunities and the beautiful snow-capped scenery, Norwegians and Swedes moved to Ballard in the early 1900s and set up Nordic shops and businesses aplenty.
Around 2007, and as the fishing industry declined, development really kicked up a notch. A proliferation of ethnic restaurants, bars, funky coffee shops, and live music venues followed. And lots of these places started serving yummy food.
While I feel a twinge of nostalgia when I think about the old businesses that have closed to make way for more hip and upscale shops and activities, the new Ballard definitely has become more of a tourist destination. It’s also become more of a destination for me. Here are some of the Ballard hotspots where I like to dine.
Pizza at Veraci Pizza
I’m originally from New Jersey, and I admit I’m a pizza snob. There aren’t many places in Seattle where I’ll eat pizza and return. Veraci is one, largely because the restaurant serves wood-fired Neapolitan thin-crust pies.
While you can find Veraci chefs set up at many of the city’s farmer’s markets, the experience is best at the sit-down location on the corner of Market Street and 46th Avenue. The eatery is small; you’ll miss it if you aren’t looking for it. My favorite thing about Veraci: The place serves slices—a bit of a rarity in Seattle.
This tiny bakery often has a line out the door, especially on the weekends. I believe people come for the croissants; though some may dispute it, I’d say Café Besalu boasts the best crescent-shaped wonders in Seattle. Really, you can’t go wrong with anything here: warm quiche, cookies, or a cup of espresso. All of these items are worth the wait.
Viewfinder Tip: Seating is limited at Café Besalu. Be patient for a table or grab some treats and have a picnic at nearby Golden Gardens.
Ray’s is an institution in Ballard and one of those places that long-time Seattleites always recommend to visitors. The restaurant has been around for at least 40 years, and specializes in sublime seafood—Dungeness Crab Cakes, Cedar Planked Wild Alaskan King Salmon, and Alaskan King Crab Legs (to name a few).
You can eat in the Boathouse with a full menu or, if you’d like something a bit more casual, dine in the Café, where locals congregate for Happy Hour after work. Visit during the daytime and you’ll be in for a treat with spectacular views of Shilshole Bay.
Located in the old Ballard Firehouse, there’s often a line at Hi-Life. My favorite meal here is weekend brunch, which includes biscuits as big as your fist. The portions also are plentiful. The menu changes regularly, but some of the best options, Cleanup on Aisle 12 and the Migas, are there for good. (Also, I’m a vegetarian, and I consider myself a lucky girl when they’ve got veggie gravy as a special).
Crepe at Monkey Bridge in Ballard
Another super-popular place for breakfast in Ballard is The Dish. Unless you arrive early (no later than 9:30 a.m.), you definitely are in for a wait. The good news is that service is fast, so the line moves quickly. And there’s always self-serve coffee for customers waiting to be seated.
You go to The Dish knowing your inexpensive meal is going to fill you up. That’s my way of warning you that the portions are big. Breakfast dishes here also a good antidote after a late night of Ballard partying.
For a light lunch or dinner of delicious Vietnamese food, check out Monkey Bridge on Market Street. The restaurant serves up lots of vegetarian options, as well as a variety of traditional Vietnamese baguettes (chicken, beef, and pork), noodle, rice, and soup dishes. If you haven’t had one before, definitely also try a Vietnamese Iced Coffee. It’s a wonderful sweet treat at the end of your meal.
For what kinds of food do you search when you travel?